This address was written by Stanton and read by Harriet May Mills.
Honorable Gentlemen: In adjusting the rights of citizens in our newly acquired possessions, the whole question of suffrage is again fairly open for discussion in the House of Representatives; and as some of the States are depriving the colored men of the exercise of the right of suffrage, and all of the States, except four, deny it to all women, I ask Congress to pass an amendment to the national Constitution declaring that citizens not allowed a voice in the Government shall not be taxed or counted in the basis of representation.
To every fair mind, such an amendment would appear preeminently just, since to count disfranchised classes in the basis of representation compels citizens to aid in swelling the number of Congressmen to legislate against their most sacred interests. If the Southern States that deny suffrage to negro men found that it limited their power in Congress by counting only those citizens who voted in the basis of representation, they would see that the interests of the races lay in the same direction. A constitutional amendment to this effect would also rouse the Northern States to their danger, for the same rule applied there in excluding all women from the basis of representation would reduce the number of their members of Congress one-half. And if the South should continue her suicidal policy toward women as well as colored men, those States would be at a still greater disadvantage.
We have long asked Congress for an amendment to the national Constitution, forbidding the States to disfranchise any of their citizens on the ground of sex. The amendment I now propose makes it to the direct interest of the ruling classes, both North and South, to carry out the spirit of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.
Leading statesmen and lawyers were of the opinion that women, as well as the slaves, were enfranchised by these amendments, and made able arguments to that effect, but the Supreme Court decided that they made no change in the political status of woman; hence we now make our demand that all disfranchised classes shall be counted out of the basis of representation, thereby appealing to the self-interest of the ruling classes. Such an amendment to our national Constitution, affecting equally all our States and Territories, making the power of the ruling classes depend on the practical recognition of the political rights of the whole people, would be unassailable as a principle of government.
Matthew Arnold says: “The first desire of every cultured mind is to take part in the great work of government,” By every principle of our republic, logically considered, woman's emancipation is a foregone conclusion. The great “declarations,” by the fathers, regarding individual rights and the true foundations of government, are not glittering generalities for demagogues to quote and ridicule, but eternal laws of justice, as fixed in the world of morals as are the laws of attraction and gravitation in the material universe.
As our appeals for a sixteenth amendment to the national Constitution, asking the right of suffrage, have been denied, we now ask that women be no longer counted in the basis of representation.
Senator Anthony, of Rhode Island, in a discussion on the rights of women, on the floor of the Senate thirty years ago, said: “It is not a fair statement of the case to say that man represents woman, because it is an assumption on the part of the man. It is an involuntary representation on the part of the woman. Representation implies a certain delegated power, and a certain responsibility on the part of the representative toward the party represented—a representation to which the represented party does not assent is no representation at all, but is adding insult to injury.”
In regard to the injustice of taxing unrepresented classes, Lord Coke says:
“The supreme power can not take from any man his property without his consent in person, or by representation. The very act of taxing those who are not represented appears to me to deprive them of one of their most sacred rights as free men, and if continued, seems to be in effect an entire disfranchisement of every civil right; for what one civil right is worth a rush after a man's property is subject to be taken from him without his consent?
Woman's right to life, liberty, and happiness, to education, property, and representation, can not be denied, for if we go back to first principles, where did the few get the right, through all time, to rule the many? They never had it, any more than pirates had the right to scour the high seas—force and fraud took the place of right in both cases.
Honorable gentlemen, in reading the speeches made in Congress, I notice frequent references to biblical texts, and to what the great Creator of the universe commands. If the members of this committee believe in an over-ruling Providence and His revealed will, I would refer them to what the Lord said, through Moses, when the five daughters of Zelophehad appeared before the Jewish congress in their capitol. The sacred historian, in the twenty-seventh chapter of Numbers, tells us that these ladies were remarkably well-developed specimens of womanhood, and very eloquent in their appeals for their civil rights.
They made such an impression on Moses that he immediately retired alone, and laid their case before the Lord, who said: “The daughters of Zelophehad speak right; thou shalt surely give them possession of their inheritance.” Thus did the daughters of Zelophehad secure their rights at the first appeal, before the whole legislative assembly, while the daughters of the Knickerbockers, Van Rensselaers, and Stuyvesants, vouchsafed only a committee, have made their appeals in vain for the last thirty years. This must be due to one of two reasons—either that the daughters of the Knickerbockers are not possessed of such eloquence and personal attractions as the Jewish petitioners, or the committee are not so faithful in their daily devotions as Moses was, listening to the still, small voice of the Lord, saying: “The daughters of the Republic are right; secure to them just inheritance, civil, and political equality as citizens of a great nation, by a sixteenth amendment to the national Constitution, declaring that only those who exercise the right of suffrage shall be counted in the basis of representation.”
Source: Woman suffrage: hearing before the Committee on Judiciary of the House of Representatives, Tuesday, February 13, 1900. [Washington: Government Printing Office] [Pdf] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/07039900/.